It is expected to enter into force on 1 February 2020. Nothing will initially change for either citizens or companies, as there will be a transition period until the end of 2020, during which EU law will continue to apply in and in relation to the UK. However, the UK will play no part in decision-making within EU institutions. During this period, the UK will remain a member of the EU single market and part of the EU customs union.
What was agreed between the EU and the UK?
When the agreement of November 2018 did not receive the necessary support in the House of Commons, the chief negotiators on both sides agreed on a slightly modified package on 17 October 2019. This still consists of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration on the future relationship between the EU and the UK.
The core of the 535‑page Withdrawal Agreement, which lays down the arrangements for the UK’s departure, remain unchanged. These include the following key aspects, which were of particular importance to us: There will be comprehensive protection of the rights of EU citizens who live in the UK and the rights of UK citizens who live in the EU; they can continue to live, work, study and enjoy social security there. The UK’s financial obligations are also laid down in the agreement. The Court of Justice of the European Union will play an important role in monitoring and implementing the agreement. By agreeing on a transition period until the end of 2020 (which can be extended once for up to two years), we have also created time for talks on the future relationship. This will provide the business sector and citizens with important planning certainty.
Amendments in the Withdrawal Agreement concern the Northern Ireland Protocol which ensures that the integrity of the EU single market and the Good Friday Agreement, in particular the continuation of the open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, are maintained. The new Northern Ireland Protocol provides that Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK’s customs territory but that all relevant rules of the EU single market will apply in Northern Ireland as will the Union Customs Code. The checks and collection of customs duties this will entail will take place at the entry points to the island of Ireland in Northern Ireland. Furthermore, the Withdrawal Agreement safeguards the open border and thus the peace in Northern Ireland that was painstakingly achieved 20 years ago.
The Political Declaration on the future relationship sets out the framework for negotiations on future relations between the EU and the UK. The transition period laid down in the Withdrawal Agreement is to be used to formally negotiate agreements on the future relationship after the UK has left the EU. The declaration essentially envisages an economic partnership and a security partnership.
What happens next?
The negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and the UK are expected to begin in March. Before that, the 27 member states of the European Union will agree on the negotiating mandate for the European Commission. Initial consultations on this have already started. The adoption of the mandate by the Council is scheduled for late February.